27 November 2009

"An American In Paris"

Herr Springer, our art professor, met us on Friday for our weekend fieldtrip to Paris, France. We got into the Louvre for free, and we presented there on different statues or paitings that we had researched beforehand. It was cool seeing all the famous artwork that I could identify, as well as visiting Notre Dame, and Eiffel Tower, at night.


Music thanks to George Gershwin and the movie "An American in Paris"

(you can view the regular photos without music under the file "20. - 21.11. 2009 Paris, France" in the main picture album directory)

Thanksgiving Abroad ~ November 26th

I actually had two Thanksgivings this year. The first one was on my floor, 5th floor Theodor-Litt-Haus, on Wednesday night. Even though we have only three Americans on this floor, the people somehow got the idea that they wanted to make their own Thanksgiving celebration. It was interesting. The whole thing started out with our floor speaker asking Hilary and I if we knew how to make a turkey and we just kindof said, "Uhhhh.....sure??" So that's how it we ended up in the kitchen on Wednesday afternoon, Hilary cooking the chicken and me making the stuffing. Neither one of us had any experience making this stuff, which I personally found amusing, since go figure - the first time we make a Thanksgiving dinner is when we're in Germany. Despite kindof just "winging it" and cooking everything by taste and look, the dinner turned out terrifically. The food everyone contributed was eclectic and it didn't really resemble the normal Thanksgiving spread, except for the turkey and my stuffing, which several people surprisingly declared to be really good (the idea of stale bread that you've poured herbs and butter over and then baked...not really a description that would actually sound appealing to the normal taste buds). But it was a Thanksgiving dinner nonetheless.

Thursday's celebration was for all the American students on campus. The turkeys and the stuffing were provided by the international office and the rest students made and brought. My dish evolved over time from being Mom's sweet potatoe casserole, to butternut squash, and finally to this odd mixed dish of vegetables that only an hour before the dinner I bought because they sounded like they would taste good together: squash, zuchinni, yellow peppers, tomatos, eggplant, and onions. I kindof just experimented, adding herbs, seasoning, and chicken stock according to taste, so all things considering, I think it was a success.

Although it was strange to not be with family, I got to talk them and some friends too. So other than that, and the German test we had in the morning and the store's still being open, Thanksgiving abroad was very similar to previous years: a chance to relax, eat yummy food, enjoy good company, and consider again how much I have been blessed over the past year.


Wednesday Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/Thanksgiving15thFloor#
Thursday Pictures: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/ThanksgivingIIAllOfUsAmericans#

My Birthday! ~ November 17th

I didn't really start paying attention to the fact that my 20th birthday was coming up until I stopped in Stuttgart on my way back from Hamburg (another visit to the Albrods!), and saw a flower shop in the train station. At first, I was just going look at the flowers, to waste time while I waited for my next train. Ha. I should know myself better. It is *extreeeeemely* difficult for me to resist buying flowers when I am surrounded by whole clusters of them. So I made my birthday my excuse this time, and broke down and bough six gorgeous roses - three rich velvetly dark reds, and three silky cream and ivory ones. My room automatically felt more cheerful and beautliful to me after I set them in a glass on my desk.

My presents arrived in stages all along the way. Grandma and Grandpa's card had arrived before Budapest, and then Mom and Dad's card too. Up in Hamburg, Gisela Albrod handed me a pink-wrapped package before I left their house...it ended up being her lastest art history novel, which I am now in the midst of reading. Then Tuesday, my actual birthday, dawned with beautiful pink clouds and a pale blue sky.....a gift in itself enough for me. I was lucky to have a break in classes to catch the Hausmeister in the half hour he was around, to pick up the package that had arrived the day before, from John W. That was a fantastic surprise. Lots of little things that I'd been wishing for for the past few months. :-) Less than a week later, Bri's present of soap and a *hand-knit* washcloth came for me. Mom and Dad's came, too, this week, packed with my Christmas presents too. I was excited enough that I woke the house back home up at 6 am, having miscalculated the time change, to tell them it had arrived.

Later on, my friend Melanie and her boyfriend took me out downtown for dessert and drinks. Good conversation and really good dessert (I had chocolatey rich Sachertorte). Another surprise came when I returned to the dorm, and was greeted by a bunch of friends from my floor, who sang Happy Birthday to me in first English, then German, and finally French, and between the five or six of them gave me a dozen little red roses (which are dried and are now next to my books)

All around it was an absolutely perfect birthday. I am happy.


Budapest, Hungary ~ until November 10th

After Berlin, our second class trip was to Budapest, Hungary, which is where the Valpo director here is from. It was interesting being able to see a former-Soviet block country and a part of Eastern Europe in general. We were there long enough to take it easy, see the sights, relax, and enjoy ourselves without having to rush to do everything.

My favorite day was Monday. Half of the crew were caving all day, so the rest of us wandered around the city, taking advantage of the one non-rainy day we had the entire visit. Kristyn, Paul, Austin, Ryan, Tristan, and I walked over to St. Stephen's Chathedral first, stopping to take pictures and then climb up to the top of the dome ~ really good views, since it was clear skies all around. On our way to the Parliament building (which we ended up missing the last tour for), we all got hungry, so Paul, Tristan, Ryan and I split ways with the other two to search for a good (but cheap) restaraunt. The three guys found this awesome little Hungarian restaurant, tucked away on a street off of the cathedral sqaure. It had a courtyard and we think it was actaully part of a hotel or something, but the prices were relatively low for such amazing authentic food. We all were stuffed by the time we finished and declared it to be one of the best meals we had had all week. Yum.

To make the day even better, I got to hear Mahler's 1st Symphony at the Budepest Opera House. The previous night, Jon, Paul, and I had went to see a Verdi opera there, but other than just the experience of being there, the performance hadn't been wonderful for me. Jon Larson and I got a box directly across from Paul's, except our seats were at the back of the box and the box was close to the stage, so we basically couldn't see anything at all. I thought, "It's an Italian opera. Ooops. Well, at least there'll be subtitles overhead...oh wait...they'll be in Hungarian." Net result: I had no clue what was going on during the entire opera. I still don't know what the plot was, other than something having to do with Israel and getting out of Egypt? or maybe not. In anycase, the second night with the symphony was much better. From the top balcony, I had a clear view of the orchestra....and wow. The hall has great acoustics. It was a fantastic performance.

After five days in Budapest, it was back to Reutlingen for me, so I woudln't have to miss my three-hour Alternative Energy lecture on Wednesday... unfortunately, all my trains were late and I missed one because of that and all total, arrived two hours late in Reutlingen, at 2 am in the morning. It was ong walk back to my dorm and then staying up even later to chat with people before finally crashing on my uber-comfortable, wonderful, BED.


Pictures from Budapest: http://picasaweb.google.com/Smilegirlerin/510112009BudapestHungary#

11 November 2009

"This is for all the lonely people..." ~ November 6th

"Rainbow in the Sky over Reutlingen"

It is hard to remember what light is when all you see is darkness. I can imagine the despair Noah and his family surely felt, holed up inside the Ark, the rain pounding down and the sky black…wondering if they would survive the forty days and forty nights. When left stranded, alone, tossed by life’s harsh waves, it is difficult to lean on God alone and trust that He will “leadeth ye unto still waters.” The enemy named doubt and despair creeps in and then what is left for you to lean on? You falter and flounder and begin to sink, the water overwhelms you…you cry “Lord, save me!” and seem to hear no answer.

Then Jesus reaches out his hand and catches you, as He did for Peter.

Yes, even in the angry storm, where you are torn apart and do not know who you are anymore or what the future holds…Yes, even there, “the voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of Glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters; The voice of the Lord is powerful, the voice of the LORD is full of majesty…” And even there, God reigns supreme over all, “the LORD sitteth upon the flood; yea, the LORD sitteth King forever.” He gives his promise, his “rainbow in the clouds…the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

So be strong and take heart, you who are burdened and weary and without hope. God is by your side, He is “the saving strength of his anointed,” he is indeed your Stronghold, your Defender, your Protector, your Shield, your Comforter. Lean on him, trust in him.


Picture: taken from my window, in the afternoon of November 5th. dedicated to you, S.

Grey Sky Morning ~ November 5th

I write your name in my breath on the window
Sit and watch as it fades away
The painful memories
Of the tears of yesterday
The sky is cold and gray
Just like it was when we both went our separate ways
And the rain won't wash away
All the dirt of my mistakes
The deafening sound of rain
It's not enough to drown my thoughts to ease the pain
So instead I'll soak it in
While I stare outside again
So I write your name in my breath on the window
Sit and watch as it fades away
The painful memories
Of the tears of yesterday

03 November 2009

Ode on an International Package ~ November 3rd

My big package from home arrived today, finally...after a missed drop-off yesterday and a 2 hour wait today. Inside: sweaters, winter coat, skirts, thermos, music, notes from home, and alot of love.
My thanks and apologies to the brilliant John Keats.
For original, see http://www.bartleby.com/101/625.html

Thou still unarriv’d bride of FedEx,
Thou foster-child of Postage and slow Time,
Strange package, who canst thus express,
A typical tale more disappointing than our rhyme:
What tape-edged legend haunts about thy shape
Of fines or regulations, or of both?
In Customs or the paths of Trucks?
What stamps and papers are these? What labels loth?
What mad waiting? What struggle to enter?
What signatures and payments? What wild anticipation?

“Package Missed” notes are fine, but packages accompanied
Are finer; therefore, ye quiet rings, continue.
Not to the absent listener, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the doorbell buzzes of all tones:
Dear postman, at the entrance, thou canst not abandon
Thy place, nor ever can this doorstep be empty;
Bold Hopeful, never, never, canst thou leave,
Though impatient near the arrival – yet, do not grieve;
He shall not leave, though thou hast not thy slip,
For ever wilt thou wait, and he be faithful!

Ah, happy, happy hands! That cannot hold
Your burden, nor ever greet the Elevator door;
And, happy bearer, unwearied,
For ever whistling joy for ever new;
More beautiful packages! More beautiful, beautiful packages!
For ever cold and still to be open’d,
For ever dented and for ever worn;
All stuff-ed brown cube sealed
That leaves a heart high-spirited and full,
A flushed brow, and expectant gaze.

Who are these coming to deliver?
To what foreign student, O uniformed priest
Bring’th thou that package bursting at its base,
And all her edges with duck-tape drest?
What little gift from family or friend,
Or love-wrapped with loud paper,
Is sent with its delights, this dreary noon?
And, little package, thy box for evermore
Will reused be; and not a soul, to tell
Where thou art come, can next venture.

O Beloved form! Fair box! With layers
Of paper cardboard and glue overlayed,
With reinforced edges and folded shape;
Thou, solid shape! Does tease us out of patience,
As doth long lectures. Abrupt Deliverer!
When hard tests shall this generation kill,
Thou shalt arrive, in midst of other woe
Than waiting , a friend to foreigners, to whom thou say’st,
“Package is here, here for you, - that is all
Ye have at this time, and all which ye must pay
The high-priced delivery fee for”


01 November 2009

Rainy Days and Mondays ~ November 2nd

"A fine rain was falling, and the landscape was that of autumn. The sky was hung with various shades of gray, and mists hovered about the distant mountains - a melancholy nature. The leaves were falling on all sides like the last illusions of youth under the tears of irremediable grief. A brood of chattering birds were chasing each other through the shrubberies, and playing games among the branches, like a knot of hiding schoolboys. Every landscape is, as it were, a state of the soul, and whoever penetrates into both is astonished to find how much likeness there is in each detail."- Henri Frederic Amiel

Time Hurries On ~ November 1st

Time hurries on,
And the leaves that were green
Turn to brown
And they wither with the wind
And they crumble in your hand ~ S&G

This weekend was a lazy two days of relaxing, going to church, and spending time with friends. Yesterday I went downtown for the big Saturday market, which, since it is autumn, has a fantastic assortment of apples, gourds, squashes, etc etc. and other fruits of the harvest. Fresh honey and homemade juices and preserves graced the ends of many stands – along with such jam combinations as “kiwi-black currant-raspberry,” “pineapple-strawberry-banana,” “blackberry-sour cherry-orange” and many more. They all sounded so good I didn’t linger long, for fear my purse would end up strangely 10 euros lighter than it was before and my bag would miraculously have 5 times the number of jams I was originally planning on buying….I settled instead for some vibrant red-yellow apples, new prunes, and fresh sweet breads.

In the evening, a young couple from church, Markus and Miriam Liebe, invited me to go to dinner and the movies with them, which was 1. good practice for my German and 2. fun! They picked me up first, then we met up with two other friends downtown at the restaurant Alexandres before going to the movie theater. You are assigned a seat in the movies, which is kindof different than I’m used to, but I guess it makes sense. I also bought a big bag of sweet kettlecorn popcorn (typical German movie popcorn) and it was really good J So was the movie.

Today was church as usual, this time with communion since it is the first of the month. Then I worked on my Lebenslauf (German resume) with Melanie, took a nap, and decided to go for a walk around campus before dinner. It’s getting cold enough that you need a jacket all the time (which I forget. Probably why I have a cold again). The sun was getting low, but there was still plenty of light for me to take pictures. So now, dear curious reader, you can finally see what my campus looks like!


PreHalloween Fun ~ October 29th

I guess it took my coming to Germany to learn how to carve a pumpkin. Yup. That's right. In all my nineteen years, I have never carved a pumpkin. There's always a first time!
Melanie Dark, the Valpo intern for the International Office here, invited four of us over to her apartment for pumpkin: our director and her daughter, me, and Sarah Wetzel, also from Valpo, and studying for the year at Tuebingen University. My pumpkin is fat and big enough that its already getting squishy now and I should probably throw it out. That's probably because it's near the heater. Oops. But it looked cool for the first couple nights. One side has a classic Jack-O'-Lantern smile, and the other side has moons and stars.

After our professor/director left, we had spaghetti dinner, which another student, Milka, joined us for. It was a great evening, just sitting around the dinner table, us four girls, talking about classes, cultures, languages, study abroad, and a whole assortment of subjects.